As an international student used to 20-plus weather almost year round, winter cycling sounded like torture to me. Why would anyone in their right mind spend extra time on icy roads and freezing temperatures?
My curiosity led me to connect with some CMU cyclists who commit to getting on their wheels even in the worst days of winter. Marika Veith, a third year Social Sciences student, and Dan Epp-Tiessen, Associate Professor of Bible, ride year round. They shared with me some of the motives that keep them cycling.
Marika explained, “I feel more independent when I am biking as opposed to other forms of transport. I am always late to the bus and in many ways I actually have a more dependable form of transport when I bike. I have CMU’s bike co-op where I can keep my bike and use tools. It takes away some of the overwhelming power that winter has over me. Coming from somewhere warm, winter feels debilitating. When I winter bike, it feels like I am leaning into it and accepting what winter is and not being afraid of it.”
I can relate to Marika’s experience because navigating the city during the winter months via public transit is often frustrating. That’s right — I, the South American, have become one of those winter cyclists. After a couple of bruised elbows and some trial and error, I navigate Winnipeg roads at -20 degrees.
While both Marika and I both enjoy the increased independence of winter cycling, others cycle for different reasons.
Dan explains why he cycles in winter: “I am committed to caring for God’s creation, so I try to drive as little as possible and use as few fossil fuels as possible. Enjoying fresh air and exercise and a 30 minute bike ride is a great way to begin and end the work day. Hopping on my bike in the morning and getting some vigorous exercise is much warmer and more convenient than waiting at a bus stop. Years ago, I read a devotional that encouraged readers to do at least one difficult task each day so that when life becomes challenging we will have some resilience and toughness. Winter biking is one way in which I maintain some physical and mental toughness.”
Winter cycling is a way to connect and embrace the city in a unique way. It has the ability to shift how we experience winter and creates room for conversations around environmental concerns. It also requires boldness and hard work. The community of cyclists, although they winter cycle for a variety of reasons, are happy to come alongside new riders.